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Pearce pleased with party favor

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By Roger Snodgrass

Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M. visited Los Alamos Tuesday and Wednesday, as a part of what he called his “victory tour.”On Saturday Pearce won the top spot on the Republican primary ballot for a shot at Pete Domenici’s Senate job in November’s election, and since then he has visited five cities.The number-one spot on the ballot amounts to about a 4-10 percent advantage, according to conventional wisdom, he said, partly because a lot of people automatically check the first name.Beyond that, he said, it gives him a measure of legitimacy, silencing some of what he called the “whispers” that the third-term congressman from the state’s southernmost district couldn’t win up north.On the contrary, he said, it’s been valuable not just for the affirmation, but also as a boost in “bringing in money and volunteers.”Pearce’s visit to Los Alamos included another briefing at the laboratory.The Pearce campaign put out a press release reiterating his backing for the laboratory.“If we cut Los Alamos’ budget, we are going to lose the most important resource within our country, scientists and researchers, and we will never be able to replace them,” Pearce said in the statement.In an interview Wednesday morning, Pearce said he wanted to have a full picture of the laboratory and its mission.“You never know what’s going to convince your friends in Congress,” he said, adding that he was preparing for this year’s appropriation cycle.Sounding a theme for a potential fall campaign, he said the currently unopposed Democratic candidate for Senate, Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., appeals to his backers who say no to nuclear.Pearce, who finds his strength in a strong pro-military position, said, “I can work my strengths and work for the laboratory also.”Pearce said he had joined forces with Gov. Bill Richardson to improve veterans’ services in New Mexico.“There are two layers of government,” he said. “In Washington, you have Congress passing the laws, but there is an important piece on the ground.”That’s why, after national attention focused on veterans’ treatment at Walter Reed in Washington, D.C., he participated in a series of quarterly meetings to see what could be improved at the Veteran’s hospital in Albuquerque.He came up with a list of 23 problems, from low mileage reimbursements to a practice of canceling out-of-town appointments without warning.He said the local VA hospital administrator was “aghast,” and immediately began to take care of some of the patients’ grievances.But some problems are more entrenched.“According to the census, 127 veterans per day are coming into New Mexico, but the budget money is going to Minnesota” because of the cumbersome bureaucracy, he said. “But I can put my checking card into an ATM in Egypt and they can tell in seconds if I have enough money to cover the withdrawal.”He said the government should be able to know where resources are needed sooner and respond faster.Pearce said he voted against the current budget resolution because it didn’t include funds for the war in Iraq, and failed to extend the Bush tax cuts, which he called a tax increase.On his way back to his home in Hobbs, Pearce said his campaign would blanket the state in the next four weeks.